First, an unrelated story: I wrote this piece a few weeks ago. I thought it was strange that I was getting responses from other places where I post, but none directly from the blogsite or from the people who see my stuff on FB. Then I realized that I’d never posted it – sort of like forgetting where I put my keys.
So…I guess it shows that I’m more of an old white guy than I thought I was. [But I don’t think I’m overly angry, which is why I’ve been supporting that other old white guy who’s running for president.]
Anyway, back to the subject at hand –
Gresham’s Law [the bad drives out the good] was originally coined to describe the economic consequences of debased currency. In today’s world there’s so much information available to so many people that it’s driving those with knowledge out of positions where their knowledge is valued. The result? Fewer and fewer knowledgeable people with more and more being demanded of them. They can’t do their job as well, leading to a loss of credibility and increasing numbers of amateurs guessing at what’s best and being hailed as experts by those who agree with them.
In the fact-rich perspective-poor echo chamber we call politics, most people only listen to others who agree with their feelings, selectively choosing facts without context that support their emotions. Partisan polemicism replaces discussion, driving out any pretense of objectivism.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s American tradition.
19th century America saw the rise of the nativist Know Nothing Party, which proudly and violently fought the immigration of its day. People were killed and injured in a number of riots and many of today’s xenophobic slogans would be familiar to the party’s faithful. Dominated by lower middle class white Protestant males, it saw evil in Irish and German Catholic immigrants, even though these new immigrants were on the bottom of the economic ladder and not competing for their jobs. Officially called the American Party, it absorbed many members of the collapsing Whig Party, so that by 1854 one out of five members of the House of Representatives was a member of the party. While it declined in the late 1850’s, it sentiments and politics found their way into the Klan and similar movements in the 20th century. As the party collapsed, many of its northern members joined the newly emerging Republican Party. The party’s first successful presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln, won a four-way race with less than 40% of the popular vote.
Whether you’re sitting on the sidelines in disgust, or destroying the body politic with ignorance-based policies, it’s all the same. And the view from here is pretty scary.